Rain and snow moving across Wyoming throughout the last week might have slowed the Ryan Fire, but it’s unlikely the blaze was extinguished, a U.S. Forest Service spokesperson said.
“We’re waiting until the storm recedes so that we can go in and see where the fire’s at,” said Aaron Voos, a Forest Service public information officer. “For it to be a season-ending event, it needs to be snow and moisture that’s going to stay on top of the fire for a good while if not the rest of the year.”
While snow fell sooner than some anticipated, Voos said fall in Wyoming can feature unpredictably warm days, fanning the flames of wildfires in the area.
“When this thing does dry out and it warms back up, which could happen next week, hopefully, the fire activity won’t pick back up,” he said.
The Ryan Fire has affected approximately 28,585 acres and is currently about 60 percent contained. The wildfire started about 27 miles northwest of Walden, Colorado, on Sept. 15. The results of a preliminary investigation indicate the fire was human-caused by a campfire that was not fully extinguished, the forest service reported.
After igniting, the fire quickly shot north and crossed into Carbon County, Wyoming. Of the nearly 29,000 acres burned, Voos said about 25,000 were in Wyoming.
Combined, the Badger Creek Fire and Ryan Fire have burned 42,440 acres of Medicine Bow National Forest land so far this year, Voos said.
Catorgized as a Type II fire days before winter weather hit the Sierra Madres, the Ryan Fire’s classification dropped with the falling snow.
“I’m not sure how fast it went down, but it could have been a day, it could have been instantly,” Voos explained. “But this fire burned in really heavy fuels, large-diameter timber, so moisture can only soak in so far. Right now, it’s a wait and see approach. There’ll be a lot of evaluating and assessing that happens over the next weeks.”
Because of decreased activity, the Type I-qualified National Incident Management Organization team managing the fire transitioned Wednesday to a Type IV team, with about 20-30 personnel, a few engines and a Type III helicopter on standby, Voos said.
“A Type IV incident is managed by the forest service,” he explained. “It does have an incident commander, but it doesn’t necessarily have all other positions an incident team would typically have.”
Once the weather clears, Voos said fire crews will re-enter the Ryan Fire area to continue battling the blaze and update the fire’s status. While the storm might not have been enough to put the fire out completely, he said the forest still benefitted from the moisture.
“It was sufficient enough of a storm that we were able to adjust the area closure,” Voos said. “We were able to shrink that down to much closer the perimeter of the fire, and we were able to remove fire restrictions.”
Go to www.inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6210 for more information about area restrictions and a map of the fire area.